The Outpost Libraries of West Virginia


An newly-inserted outpost library in West Virginia.

Due to the energy crisis of the 70s, it became a common practice for bookmobiles to hit fewer stops for longer periods of time. Sometimes, these bookmobiles would be parked all day at the same spot, making the vehicle more of a traveling library branch, or “branchmobile.”

The branchmobile concept was taken to an extreme in West Virginia. This mountainous state had long used bookmobiles to reach isolated areas, but driving large trucks on the icy roads was dangerous and difficult. Starting in 1973, the state began to use instant libraries, also known as “outpost libraries.” The library was a narrow house that could be pulled by a tractor trailer, then left in one place indefinitely. After some basic construction, a town could then instantly have a library branch. These outpost libraries could carry about 8,000 books. Later, the state used “modular libraries”, which were larger, able to hold approximately 15,000 volumes. There were 65 of these portable buildings by 1986 operating in the backwoods of West Virginia.


Patrons enjoy an outpost library.

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